Hark, the pitter-patter of following footsteps

I wrote this nearly 30 years ago. It appeared in Panorama, The Dominion Post Sunday Magazine, July 30, 1989.

Do all parents fantasize about their children’s future professions?

Do all parents gaze at tiny, squalling bundles and think doctor, lawyer or inheritor of the family business?

As soon as the child is old enough to vocalize his or her preference, the dreams are shattered. I can recall the horror of one feminist friend whose daughter loudly announced she wanted to be, ”just a mommy.” Or another friend, a pacifist, whose son wanted to be a soldier.

My older son early on predicted he would be a fireman. He later said he would be a policeman, a doctor and an astronaut. He has announced he wants to be a scientist. Lately, he has been insisting he will be a photographer.

Already he has two cameras. Already he has requested a motor drive. Already he has taken what I consider to be wonderful pictures (and as a journalist I am trained to be unbiasted). He is not yet 10. I tell him film is expensive and he retorts “but you use a lot of it.”

Yes, son, but when I use it, it’s called “work.”

However, I am quite pleased he wants to follow in my footsteps. The timing is right; we are currently sharing socks. I will encourage this calling.

I cannot predict the future of my second son. He has what is known as Fragile X Syndrome, a hereditary disorder which can cause mental retardation and learning disabilities.  So far, the experts have not be able to place a label on Simon. Although he has speech problems, some developmental delays and is quite small for his age, he is wonderfully outgoing and cheerful. He has the innate ability to make people laugh. He is also impossibly cute. (Again, remember, I am unbiased.)

He can also handle a camera.

During our recent visit to Kansas City (that’s Missouri, not Kansas), we walked through the Henry Moore Sculpture Garden. The garden, 17 acres on the south grounds of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, contains 12 Moore sculptures. It is the largest collection of monumental bronze sculptures by Moore outside his home country of England.

It is wonderful. The sculptures rest on grassy knolls. They rise vertical along winding paths. They reflect the sun. They are warm to the touch, drawing the summer sun as they draw visitors.

They are abstract, yet organic. They are mesmerizing. We circled each sculpture, evaluating each from all angles. We read the labels. “This is sheep?” Sam asked. Then he squinted. “Yeah,” he said. “I know, Sheep.”

Sheep Piece, 1971-72 was our favorite. It was huge, 14 feet high, rounded, and it begged to be photographed.

At first I shot pictures. Then Sam asked if he could use my camera (equipped with motor-driven film advancement) to shoot photos of Simon and me. We posed. Then Simon wanted a turn with the Nikon.

I hung the camera around his neck. The aperture and shutter speed had been set. Simon had used the camera before. He knew which button to push, which button would create that amusing ka-chinga sound. "Cheese, cheese,” he chanted, camera to his eye.

Sam and I smiled.

Ka-chinga. (See photo number 1.)

I realized Simon was going to shoot another picture. We were only halfway through the sculpture garden. This was expensive film. I told Simon to stop taking pictures.

Ka-chinga. (See photo number 2.)

Then, I rushed to retrieve the Nikon.

Ka-chinga. (See photo number 3.)

By the time I caught the child, he was handing over the camera. “Here, Mommy,” he said, his most charming smile on his face.

Whatever your children will be when they grow up, remember this: When young, they are always con artists.

Abrams Nancy